Even 44 years ago can seem like yesterday with one raw, big-screen flashback.
It was Sept. 20, 1973, moments after grinding out a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, winner-take-all $100,000 victory over Bobby Riggs in the uber-hyped live televised tennis match at the Houston Astrodome.
Billie Jean King, the reigning Wimbledon champion, went back to the empty locker room, sat alone on a bench and had a good cry.
The TV cameras didn’t see it. But in “Battle of the Sexes,” the new Fox Searchlight film that comes out Friday with a title mirroring the event’s headline, actress Emma Stone plays the role of King and recreates that emotional release in a revealing, climatic scene.
King fights back tears all over again when she sees it.
“It was so authentic with what was in my heart at the time,” the 73-year-old Tennis Hall of Famer said Sunday morning at the W Hotel in Westwood, the morning after she experienced that scene again during the film’s L.A. premiere.
“It was so touching. They captured it better than I could have ever imagined. It was 100 percent right.”
The then-29-year-old King wasn’t just chalking up another win for sexual equality, just months after she talked a group into breaking away from the men’s pro circuit to start the Women’s Tennis Association.
This was also a time when she was processing her own sexuality, believing she was happily married to her Cal State L.A. sweetheart.
The film wraps the circus of the Riggs match around the emotional roller coaster facing King. The Long Beach native can in one moment recite the names of the memorable teachers she had at Los Cerritos Elementary, Hughes Middle School and Long Beach Poly High as if she were still there on the playground as Billie Jean Moffitt, but admits she can’t fully get her head around how she feels about seeing her life portrayed on the big screen.
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